Century_Mag_Sonya_Kovalevsky

Sonya Kovalevsky (1850-1891):

Sofia Kovalevskaya liked to say that she began studying math as a baby; her father’s old calculus notes were reportedly plastered onto the walls of her nursery to make up for a shortage of wallpaper. After finishing her secondary schooling in St. Petersburg, Kovalevskaya was determined to continue her studies at the university level. The closest universities open to female students were in Switzerland, but only married women were allowed to attend. So Kovalevskaya entered into a marriage of convenience with Vladimir Kovalevskij, a paleontologist who would go on to collaborate with Charles Darwin. Kovalevskaya discovered what is now known as the “Kovalevskaya Top,” a principle that describes how the mass of an object impacts its spin. She became the first woman in Europe to earn a doctorate in mathematics summa cum laude.

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